July 15, 2018
Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi
Amaziah, chaplain at the national cathedral in Bethel, has a lot to lose if the reforms of Amos are adopted. That is why Amaziah wants Amos out of there, and he wants him quiet.
Amaziah sees religion in “civil” terms, existing to promote loyalty to the status quo, the royal house, and to nationalism. As chaplain in the royal sanctuary, Amaziah’s job is to keep things smooth and nice so that the government will remain stable and in control.
Amaziah asks no questions, and he never rocks the boat. He apparently never reflects much on the fact that the worship in that place had deteriorated into people simply going through the motions in order to satisfy their religious obligations.
Enter Amos, vine dresser and shepherd, a no-body from no-where, disturbing things, and making it difficult to conduct business as usual. Business as usual in northern Israel means a prosperous economy built on taking advantage of the poor, and Amos rocks the boat by pointing out this injustice.
Enter Jesus, carpenter and itinerant preacher, a no-body from the no-where town of Nazareth, disturbing things and making it difficult to conduct business as usual.
Enter the disciples of Jesus, not just those twelve, but you and me, if we’re worthy of the company. Just ordinary folks from no place in particular, who because we might dare to take our Baptism seriously, are not going to conduct business as usual. For our baptism calls us to participate with Jesus in his prophetic role to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable
If we get the picture here, the status quo is in trouble, unless we’re part of the picture and find our future in business as usual like Amaziah.
The Gospel in which we are formed suggests that poverty, dependence on the hospitality of others, and a sense of urgency mark the Christian enterprise. But too often in the status quo, “poverty” is something we avoid, dependence on others is looked upon as a failure, and the only urgency we really feel is to protect ourselves and our stash of this world’s goods. What Jesus proposes for his disciples is total trust and dependence upon God, a radical departure from the attitude of successful competition, which tricks us into thinking that what we have we have earned, when in truth, everything we have is pure gift from God.
Paul reminds the Ephesians and us that in Christ Jesus, we have been given everything—every blessing, an abundance of graces — such is the generosity of our God. In Christ, we know that there is always enough to go around and thus no need to hoard.
Sent by Christ to preach repentance, we know there is always space to spare, always time to give, always bread to break, and always treasure to share. We walk lightly, unburdened by the insatiable need to acquire and accumulate.
Thus, we disciples are instructed to take nothing. All that we have to give is what we have received from Jesus Christ. These are qualities which cannot be contained in a sack or a money belt.
Remember, Jesus placed his confidence in that rag-tag group he had called away from fishing boats and tax tables, from everything familiar and comfortable. There was no evidence at all that they would be capable of doing what he asked, but he sends them and they go. It should be noted that he sent them all, not just some of them. He sent proud Peter and doubting Thomas, and even one who would later betray him.
We are left to decide whether we are outside this story looking in, or whether we too are being sent. If Jesus sends us out in his name, then he must know we have what it takes to do what he asks. It all begins with following his teaching and his example to place our total trust and complete dependence in God our Father.
We are challenged by these readings to look at our missionary endeavor seriously. To examine how much we might be like Amaziah, set in our way, secure with things the way they are, and satisfied with business as usual.
Repentance, a change of mind and heart, is serious business. In fact, it’s not an option for the disciples of Jesus.
If repentance is the focus of the mission, then business as usual, which continues to take advantage of the helpless and the poor, which incarcerates more women and minorities than we want to admit, is in trouble. If repentance is the focus of the mission, then business as usual, which tolerates racism and finds entertaining the ridicule of those who are different, is in trouble. If repentance is the focus of the mission, then business as usual which insists upon vengeance while calling it “justice”, which continues to kill the unborn and treat pet animals better than our greatest treasure, the elderly, is in serious trouble.
What Amos the prophet and Paul the apostle and Mark the evangelist propose to us is that remaining true to our identity and our mission in this life means rocking the boat, unsettling what is settled, and leaving nothing in us or around us untouched by the Gospel.
The biggest and most obvious of social, political, and economic issues cannot remain unquestioned and untouched by disciples sent in the name of Jesus.
The most personal, relational, and spiritual issues cannot remain unreformed and unmoved by those of us who carry the Gospel message.
Christ longs to take possession of us in and through this Eucharist.
So that we might be sent forth in his name as his glad and faithful people, allowing the Gospel to inform and influence all that we say and do.
Then kindness and truth will embrace, and justice and peace will kiss.